Automation Is Coming to a Workplace Near You

By: Anneken Tappe · June 21, 2024 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

Automation Is Here

More than half of U.S. companies are planning to use AI to automate work that has traditionally been done by humans over the next year, according to a survey of Chief Financial Officers conducted by Duke University and the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Richmond.

Three out of five of the surveyed companies, and four out of five larger firms, reported these intentions. In fact, nearly that many have already done so, with nearly 60% of companies, and 84% of larger companies, starting to use software and technology to automate tasks over the past year.

Automation is here. So how will it affect workers?

What Does It Mean for Workers?

Duke Professor John Graham, who directed the survey, told CNN that he does not expect AI to lead to any layoffs in the short term.

Instead, the hope is that efficiency and productivity will increase for existing workers, rather than replace them altogether. Roughly half of the companies that reported using automation did so to increase quality and output. Just a third used it as a substitute for workers.

But just because the robots aren’t coming for our jobs today doesn’t mean the work landscape isn’t changing. Automation could require workers to have more technical knowledge, or delay hiring new staff because it helps fill in the gaps.

AI and Worker Disputes

AI is already part of discussions between workers and employers. Remember the SAG-AFTRA strike of Hollywood actors and writers? The use of technologies like AI was a big part of it.

This month, the International Longshoremen’s Association, the largest maritime union in North America, canceled a union contract discussion, citing the use of automation to process trucks at port gates rather than using union laborers. A potential strike of port workers could weigh on supply chains.

Labor unions aren’t the only organizations that want more AI oversight. State lawmakers have proposed hundreds of new laws regulating the technology this year, most prominently in California, where several dozen new measures were advanced last month alone.

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